2005-2013: The Early High-Definition Era
The Xbox 360 ushered in the seventh generation of video game home consoles, a system capable of high-definition gaming. It was an era in which high-definition graphics began to become industry standard. While Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 competed for the best graphics of this generation, it was the graphically inferior Nintendo Wii that won this console war. Games that provided fun for the whole family had a broader appeal and outsold games that had cutting edge graphics. Ironically, in an era of high-definition gaming, the the kingpin of this generation was not designed for high-definition gaming. The Nintendo Wii emphasized family-friendly games with motion controls, returning Nintendo to its position at the top of the mountain of the console wars.
2005, November 22: Xbox 360
Original price: $399 (Premium: 20 gig model, wireless controller, component/composite wires), $299 (Core: no hard drive, wired remote, composite wires)
2019 price: $509.53 (Premium), $382.14 (Core)
Sales: 85.5 million
Number of Games: 2,104 (461 original Xbox games)
Best-selling game: Kinect Adventures (24 million – bundled with Kinect), Grand Theft Auto V (15.34 million)
Media: DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, digital downloads
Main controller(s): Microsoft Xbox 360 controller (wired and wireless)
Other peripherals: Xbox 360 Wireless Racing/Speed Wheel, Xbox Live Vision Camera, Xbox 360 Kinect, Xbox 360 universal Media Remote, Xbox 360 Media Remote, Big Button Controller/Scene It Trivia Controller, Xbox 360 Arcade Sticks, Rhythm Game Controllers (musical instruments for Rock Band & Guitar Hero), Xbox 360 Ace Combat 6 Flight Stick
The Xbox 360 used dual layer DVDs that held 8.7 gigs of data. It was capable of playing DVDs, high definition gaming, and was backwards compatible with many games from the original Xbox.
For most of this generation the Xbox 360 held onto first place for console sales. However, late in the generation PlayStation surpassed it in sales. Third party developer support was excellent for these systems, in many ways the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were more of direct competitors with one another, rather than with the Nintendo Wii.
The first model of the Xbox 360 had unreliability issues with its hardware. The most common problem was the Red Ring of Death, an indication the console needed to be serviced. This was due to a lack of proper ventilation that led to overheating. Later versions of this console, the Xbox 360 S and the… were much more reliable hardware because of better ventilation.
- 2006, November 17: PlayStation 3
Original price: $599 (60 GB), $499 (20 GB)
2019 price: $748.27 (60 GB), $623.35
Sales: 86.90 million
Number of Games: 1,443 (7,978 PS1 and 3,909 PS2 games)
Best-selling game: Grand Theft Auto V (17.27 million)
Media: Blu-ray disk, DVD-Rom, CD-ROM, digital downloads
Main controller(s): Sixaxis wireless controller, DualShock 3 controller
Other peripherals: Wireless kedpad, PlayStation Eye, PlayStation Move, Buzz, Logitech Driving Force GT, Logitech Wireless Precision Controller, Blu-ray disk remotes, Rhythm game controllers (musical instruments)
The PlayStation 3 was in many ways a step back for Sony’s console. After winning the console war the previous two generations, the PlayStation 3 trailed both of its major competitors for most of this generation; eventually edging out the Xbox 360 for second place. Early issues for the PS3 was a high price point, and the infamous “cell processor” which made it difficult for developers to develop for.
The PS3 was capable of playing blueray media, and its games were also stored on blueray disks holding 24 gigs worth of information. The PS3 became a popular way to stream media such as Netflix, or local media to an HDTV. The PS3 could be connected to a tube TV, but an HDTV produced the best results. Some early versions of the PS3 were backwards compatible with both the PS1 and PS2, but the feature was dropped because of the expense needed to maintain this hardware.
- 2006, November 19: Nintendo Wii
Original price: $249.99
2019 price: $312.29
Sales: 101.64 million
Number of Games: 1242 (plus virtual console games)
Best-selling game: Wii Sports (82.83 million, pack-in except in Japan)
Media: Wii Optical Disc (proprietary DVD-DL), digital downloads
Main controller(s): Wii Remote Controller and Nunchuk
Other peripherals: Sensor Bar, Console stand and plate, Wii Wheel, Wii Zapper, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro, GameCube controller, Wii Dance Pad, Wii Fit
The Nintendo Wii would go on to sell the most consoles of its generation, the first time Nintendo would win the console war since the Super Nintendo. Although the Wii’s graphics were inferior to the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, it’s motion-based controllers gave it a family friendly aura the other two consoles didn’t have. Top that off with the fun of Nintendo games, and the Wii was a winning formula. Although some third party games appeared on the Wii, the strength of its lineup lay in Nintendo exclusives.
Second tier consoles:
- 2004, August 4: V.Smile Series (VTech)
- 2005, October: Game Wave (ZAPiT Games)
- 2006, September (EU): V.Flash (VTech)
- 2006, October 23: HyperScan (Mattel)
- 2007 (CN): Vii (JungleTac)
- 2007: ClickStart (LeapFrog)
- 2008, November 20: EVO Smart Console (Envisions)
- 2009, May 25 (BRA): Zeebo (Zeebo)
- 2004, November 21 (NA): Nintendo DS
Original price: $149.99
2019 price: $197.67
Sales: 154.90 million
Number of Games: 1839 (1,510 backwards compatible Game Boy Advance games)
Best-selling game: New Super Mario Bros. (38.8 million – all versions), Nintendogs (23.96 million)
Media: Nintendo DS Game Card, Game Boy Advance Cartridge (DS, DS Lite only), digital downloads
The Nintendo DS continued Nintendo’s grip on handheld superiority. Perhaps the biggest innovation of this system is its clamshell design, probably the best design to date for portable console. This design protects the screen, allowing gamers to close their consoles when not in use; making a carrying case a luxury rather than a necessity.
- 2004, December 12 (JP): PlayStation Portable (PSP)
2005, March 24 (NA): PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Original price: $249
2019 price: $324.24
Sales: 80-82 million
Number of Games: 1,368 (606 UMD), (7,978 PS1 games)
Best-selling game: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (7.6 million)
Media: UMD (Universal Media Disks), digital downloads
The PlayStation Portable, or PSP as it was more commonly known was Sony’s entry into the portable gaming market. While it can be seen as a failed coup to Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market, it was a very respectable alter active for gamers.
The PSP played UMD disks and digital downloads. Owners of digital downloads of PS1 games had a cross buy and cross play option. These digital versions of the games could be played on both the PSP and the PS3. Although these were not current generation games, it gave gamers the option to play the same game at home or on the road, transferring the game save back and forth.
Second tier portable consoles:
- 2005, April: Gizmondo (Tiger Telematics)
- 2005: digiBlast (Grey Innovation)
- 2006, August: Pelican VG Pocket (Pelican Accessories)
- 2008, April: N-Gage 2.0 Platform (Nokia)
- 2008: Leapster2 (LeapFrog Enterprises)
- 2009, May 12: GP2X Wiz (GamePark Holdings)
- 2009, October: Mi2 or PDC Touch (Planet Interactive)
- 2010, May: Pandora (OpenPandora GmbH)
- 2010, August 16: CAANOO (GamePark Holdings)
- 2010: Fusion: 30-In-1 Portable Arcade (Jungle Soft)
- 2010: Leapster Explorer (LeapFrog Enterprises)